Since the 2015 term of the House of Representatives just began today, it seems early to be thinking about its balance of power in 2023. The political industry never sleeps, however, especially over the big reset that comes after each census, when seats are redistributed among the states.
Hints come from Census Bureau estimates of 2014 state populations released recently. If done today with those estimates, reapportionment would shift a seat from Minnesota to Texas, according to Election Data Services, a Manassas, Va., consulting firm. That’s not much change compared with this time a decade ago, when five states already would have had to swap seats. Thank the slow economic recovery, which has delayed retirements, immigration, marriages, job relocations and the population shifts that they create.
With warnings about tentativeness, Election Data Services also projected House changes by 2020 if each state were to keep growing at its 2010-14 rate. Gainers of a single seat: Ariz., Calif., Colo., Fla., N.C., and possibly Oregon or Virginia. Texas would gain three seats. Losers of a single seat: Ala., Ill., Mich., Minn., Ohio, Pa., R.I., W.Va. and possibly N.Y.
Unlike much else in Washington, reapportionment can’t be lobbied, earmarked or filibustered. It’s in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2). It has only been kicked down the road once (in the 1920s). The current formula was set in a 1941 law that has been blessed by the Supreme Court.
Political impacts aside, reapportionment is a gauge of long-term shifts in where we the 2020 pattern seems to be emerging, even if details aren’t clear yet: Fewer shifted seats (9) than the last two reapportionments (12 each). Losses in the Northeast and Midwest, scattered gains elsewhere.
But the pattern is patchy. For example, New York and Massachusetts are growing faster than Sun Belt states like New Mexico, Alabama and Mississippi.
And who knows what the next five years will bring? A decade ago, population shifters like Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession and the fracking boom lay in the future. — Paul Overberg